COVID-19 is putting great pressure on businesses, forcing them to reimagine operations, business models, and the way they work. This has led to an unprecedented wave of purpose-driven innovations designed to not only ensure business continuity, but also to alleviate the crisis.

Jesper Schleimann, chief innovation officer of SAP EMEA North, talks about why a crisis is good for innovation, why now is the time for companies to discover their purpose DNA, and what SAP is doing to help support enterprise recovery and growth.

Purpose Driven Innovation

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Purpose Driven Innovation

Accelerating Innovation and Transformation During a Global Crisis

“The COVID-19 crisis is acting like a tsunami for purpose-driven innovation, washing away the inefficiencies of the enterprise,” Schleimann said.

He explained that the crisis has forced leaders to focus, be agile, and make bold decisions quickly in order to survive and show customers, employees, and investors that they are stepping up with a wider purpose: to help the world tackle the crisis.

Finding Corporate Purpose DNA

According to Schleimann, there is no better time for businesses to focus on finding their higher purpose and how they can deliver valuable sustainable experiences to all stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers, environment, communities, and shareholders.

Instead of treating sustainability as a single project or department, it must be integrated into the core of the business strategy.

“We have a unique opportunity to refine the purpose of the enterprise, balancing short-term profit with long-term purpose as it is clear that the resilience of an enterprise needs both,” Schleimann said. I think the key questions to any business are ‘What is your relevance, your true purpose in this world? What are your strengths and your role in the wider value chain or ecosystem?’”

Schleimann added that  sustainability impact labs provide a way to get started: “The labs are a way to uncover your strengths, path, and purpose through a series of customer workshops with a rockstar team of digital athletes devoted to exploring specific use cases around sustainability, and define a road map and game plan for next steps, to ensure your business relevance in the long term.”

Four Phases to Lead in a Disruptive Crisis

Based on research in leadership patterns observed in times of significant change, people will move through the following four stages: coping, reaction, adaption, and — eventually — reorientation.

“You’re moving through these stages with an increasing awareness that you want to create a strong positive narrative toward the new world,” Schleimann explained. “Most important, as you move beyond the initial stages, is to create excitement in your organization and keep the energy level up. And purposeful innovation drives focus and motivation, so employees can carry you forward and keep the momentum going through a tough crisis like this one.”

SAP Supports Enterprise Recovery and Growth

Like many companies, SAP has stepped up and is taking action by offering free services and solutions to help clients and employees in this challenging time. Open access to SAP Ariba Discovery means that any buyer can post their immediate sourcing needs and any supplier can respond. In addition, Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse helps companies keep track of how their employees are doing in their new way of working.

Another initiative is a sprint to fight COVID-19 through the SAP One Billion Lives initiative, which encourages employees to reimagine how technology and SAP solutions can help tackle the crisis. Using SAP’s business innovation platform in combination with its vast ecosystem of partners, the sprint aims to unlock great ideas from employees. Thus far, more than 500 have been submitted. SAP will fund the best ones in order to help the world move through the COVID-19 crisis.

Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to redefine a path through purpose-driven innovation. Many great examples have paved the way for a new future driven by purpose; let’s ensure we make it our future.

To hear more, listen to the full interview with Jesper Schleimann:

IN FOCUS PODCAST: Purpose Driven Innovation

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IN FOCUS PODCAST: Purpose Driven Innovation

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